Sound Blaster Recon3D Fatal1ty Professional Review

Sound_Blaster_Recon3D_Fatal1ty_card

For many, building a gaming system is all about the processor and video card. People will take the time to research everything about the processor speed or video ram, but when it comes to the sound card that duty is given to the motherboard. In the 90’s almost every gaming rig had a sound blaster inside, but today, far too many leave it up to the mainboard and far too many are missing out.

Now, let us be fair, onboard sound can be pretty good. I personally have used on-board sound and I thought it was just fine. The trick is you do not know what you are missing until you try it out and see the difference. It is like going from 720p to 1080p you will notice the difference especially in games with 3D sound effects or where having true surround sound is important.

First, we start with the Sound Core3D. This is a quad-core audio processor that allows all the technologies running within the card to function at peak performance. Sometimes you might see within games that you can crank up the sound quality, but it might lower performance, not with this card.

Sound Blaster Recon3D Fatal1ty Professional - Box

Next, we have the THX TruStudio Pro, which is all about realism. When you are playing a game like Battlefield 3 or World of Tanks, you want the sound of the bullets and explosions to sound real. It is all about immersion and that is what 3D surround sound does, it makes you feel as if you are right there just as much as high resolution graphics does.

Crystal voice is all about audio communications, which is so important in today’s games. Ever listen to horrible sounds via Ventrilo, Team Speak or Mumble? It is not always a bad microphone or that the person never uses push to talk. Many of the times, it is just a bad audio card or setup and crystal voice fixes that allowing you to adjust your settings within the control panel so you come through clear without the need to yell.

Staying in the world of voice the beam-forming microphone I found is great for voice communications. We talked about push to talk, but sometimes in some versus games you might need to be able to constantly talk and what is great about this microphone is it creates an acoustic zone suppressing noise outside that zone. What does this mean? It means when talking your speaker noise is less likely to be heard allowing you to speak freely without others hearing your background noise. I tested this in games like BF3, Star Wars the Old Republic and League of Legends and it works like a charm.

Connections

If you have been reading our previous hardware reviews you know I am rocking the Diablo III headset and it works perfectly with the Recon 3D. This card has a dedicated headphone amp that provides the power needed for high quality headphones, which is important since many gamers are spending the big bucks and high-end headsets and the last thing you want is an underpowered device running them.

Finally, we have the Dolby Digital Live encoding which allows you to connect your system to a home theater system using a single cable. I personally have not tried this function yet, but for those of you with a home system this could be the perfect piece to finish your setup particularly if you watch television and movies or listen to music within your office.

Setting it up was a snap. The back of the card has color-coded connections with clear markings of what goes where. I have a 5.1 speaker system with a center speaker and sub and was able to connect my speakers within moments. Just remember that if you have existing onboard audio you will want to disable it because Windows will use it by default and you might end up wondering why you do not hear anything.

Sound Blaster Recon3D Fatal1ty Professional - Control Panel

The microphone while small has a very long cable which is good for people like myself with a large desk and I noticed while configuring the mic that I do not have to speak loudly or lean into the mic which is great.

Once the software was installed, I opened up the control panel and viewed the various options for configuration. For the novice, don’t sweat it. There are a lot of settings you can change, but right out the box you will notice the difference in quality without changing anything.

Sound Blaster Recon3D Fatal1ty Professional - Control Panel

For the most part I only played around with the equalizer because I wanted to create different profiles for games, movies and music and anyone who has ever used Winamp EQ or another audio program will see how to adjust the highs, mids and lows.

The speaker/headphones setup is also nice because it allows you to adjust for the difference between the two devices. A lot of times you will want to boost the forward speakers or lower the bass with headphones and all this can be done on the fly.

Sound Blaster Recon3D Fatal1ty Professional - Control Panel

Under the Crystal Voice, settings you can boost your mic output or adjust the noise reduction making sure you sound perfect within games or just normal voice chat.

Overall, the Recon 3D Fatal1ty changed my view on sound. I can hear people sneaking up on me in first person shooters and immerse myself in the battle music of SWTOR. For those of you who take your gaming seriously a top-notch sound card is a must because it does give an advantage just as much as a better monitor or video card does.

Sound Blaster Recon3D Fatal1ty Professional - Control Panel

Besides that, being able to enjoy movies and music with high-definition sound truly makes your computer the main entertainment center, so if you spend a lot time with your PC then you want a great audio experience and the Sound Blaster Recon3D Fatal1ty Professional sound card delivers just that.

My transition from the dark side (iPhone) to the light (Android)

say no to iphone
say no to iphone

Before I get into this whole mix, I want to point something out, something all of you know but somehow like to ignore or not admit. The iPhone as a cell phone is mediocre at best, the iPhone as a music player is great (I give it this, the iPod is great), the iPhone as a device to use and live with as a serious techie, nothing short of pathetic.

Any system that has 16gb+ of storage that does not allow you to save files onto it, is a piece of garbage. We are talking 1981 technology here, copy to the hard drive style, “copy a:\*.* c:\files\*.*” style here. I found myself in a hotel room armed with only an iPhone wanting to watch a video, I could not. I couldn’t stream it, I couldn’t download it, nothing. Next, I needed to get a zip off of one of my work websites, rarely do I travel without my laptop but this was an exception, I took a quick flight out for a funeral but no problem, I had my iPhone… wrong. I guess I knew all along it couldn’t do these things, but it didn’t become important to me until I actually had to, and could not. Then, in that brief moment of sorrow after researching and realizing I had to download a bunch of jailbreak apps, jump through hoops, section off some of the file system, and hope my phone didn’t crash through all of this that, maybe, I should just get an Android phone.

The next day I met up with a long time friend I had not seen in years, my family and his all went to dinner together. During dinner I noticed his phone, a Galaxy S. I said, “hey let me see that.” He did and I proceeded to play with it. It responded nice, not as smooth as the iPhone I will admit, but I wasn’t after a ball cupping, I was after the long stroke. I wanted to download files, copy them to the hard drive, access them via usb or wifi, play, edit, extract, run, upload, download… I wanted functionality. I got exactly what I wanted, after ignoring everyone at the dinner table for thirty minutes, I had decided, when I get home, my iPhone was going to ebay, and I am switching to Android.

On my island (I serously live on an island, go figure) we don’t have much choice other than AT&T, so we called them on the phone, got a Samsung Captivate (Galaxy S) for $200, and my journey into happiness began. The first thing I did was arm my Google muscle and look up switching from iPhone to Android tips. The most important thing on my mind was to save the contacts… this proved to be very easy. I synced my contacts to Windows Contacts, and proceeded to export the file. I uploaded the exported file into Google and bam, Google had all my contacts. This is important since the phone would log into Google and download all of my contacts, you can pick to save them on the sim, the phone, or Google. I’m happy living in the clouds so this worked out well for me. My work email has always been setup as IMAP so I had nothing to do with that. I use GMAIL as my primary personal email so there was no problem with that either, I quickly realized that aside from my contacts, I had nothing to change.

I figured the time had come so I called AT&T and had the new phone activated. I connected to my WiFi, got synced up with Google, and was quickly raping the android app store. I will admit openly, the app store was a bit of a let down. I also want to point out, it is not a reason to not get an Android phone. If you feel you can’t live without your apps please move to France because you aren’t tough enough to be American. The main app store is full of crap, 1 in 20 apps is worth downloading, some crash, some just don’t work at all. There is an app called “AppBrain” that sorts out the better apps and gives you access to them, so I got myself WinAMP, VLC, K9 Mail, YELP, AIM, Photoshop (you heard me correctly), Astro, Dropbox, Pandora, Websharing (wifi browser based file access upload/download from any pc on the network), MP3 Ringtone Creator, Facebook, and the all mighty One Click Lag Fix (OCLF).

Most of these apps are commonplace so I’m not really going to get into all of them. I will however give an explination of two that you may not know about being a poor lost iPhone user. Astro is a file explorer, it just gives you access to the basic file system on the phone so you can punch through the directories and see what you have, make new folders, delete junk files, you know, extremely basic functionality that you can’t have without jailbreaking your iphone. The second app that I will explain about is the One Click Lag Fix (OCLF). This created, from what I can tell (and I’m sure I will be corrected) a swap file of sorts on my phone, which made my already fast phone much faster. The app also rooted the phone and gave me superuser ability so that I can remove the stock AT&T bloatware, another great feature. This is the single most important app to get for your new Android phone, but not the first one you should get. Get used to the phone, how it functions, and how to get your things done, and then start hacking the crap out of it.

Now onto some of the bad I have discovered. The Android OS is not as user friendly as the iPhone, it is however fully functional. I would not give my mother an Android phone, she needs the training wheels, that is why the iPhone is good for her. This is phone specific and not Android specific, TBH when people have anything bad to say about Android, it’s normally in regards to the phone and not the platform. The Samsung Captivate has pretty shotty GPS. In urban city centers with clear view of the sky, I have no problem with it. On my island is a different story. It cannot find my location, and that would stink if I was just visiting and wanted to use Yelp. In addition to the GPS problems, and to my surprise, the navigation app isn’t very good as well. I’m sure this will change, and I rarely use it anyway since my car has amazing GPS built in, but I’m sure someone will use it, and I’m sure someone else will say that it sucks.

So in the end, I am a happier person, I have broke free of Apple’s death grip, and I have started down the path of my own choosing. I have had the phone for three weeks now, traveled to Vegas with it, taken pictures, video, loaded movies on it (native XVID support), purchased mp3’s from Amazon (did I mention no iTunes, seriously, this may be the best part), and added a 2nd 16gb MicroSD card for a total of 32GB storage. I can now carry around more than one battery so if I run out, I can actually swap another in and keep using my phone (interchangeable batteries, who would have thunk it, oh wait, everyone did, 30 years ago), and the best part, I don’t have to give Steve Jobs any more of my money. I suspect he doesn’t need it anyway.

Gamer Culture: OverClock Remix

Overclocked Remix logo

OverClock Remix

In this new editorial series I wanted to go over different aspects of gamer culture. When video games you could play in your own home came on the scene a whole new world was created. Today there are so many different communities and groups within gaming that you could spend your entire life discovering and experiencing them. From blogs, to LAN parties to institutions dedicated to everything gaming, if you have a niche you can easily find a haven for it.

Now ever since the earliest games on the Atari as far as consoles and the Commodore as far as personal computers, music has been a very important part of the gaming experience. As gaming evolved the music did as well and entire scores were created for games performed by those self-defined as novice musicians to orchestra led presentations of music.

I personally became a fan of video game music after listing to some of the tracks from popular games such as Mega Man, Sonic the Hedgehog and Final Fantasy. In the past it was almost impossible to find the music from video games and if a soundtrack was created it was often only available in Japan.

Slowly but surely websites began to emerge that offered downloads of game music in the midi format. While it was not an exact representation of the music from the video game it at least gave fans something to keep of their own.

Later, more websites were born offering wav files of music. This was a golden age for game music fans as often the music was spot on and could be burned onto a CD. Almost at the same time specialty websites were created offering the direct sound file from a game meaning it was taken from the programing itself so it sounded exactly as it would on the game. For these files you would often need a specifically created program to play it although many created Winamp plugins so you could listen to authentic game music on your media player.

Then came something that for me personally changed the face of video game music. It started with a friend playing a song from Megaman 2 but it was slightly different with added beats and sound effects. When I asked what it was I was told it was a remix. From there I was introduced to the website Overclock Remix.

Overclock Remix was founded in 1999 and was created to showcase video game music as the art form that it is. OC Remix offers fans of video game music a place to remix and re-mastered their favorite video game music arrangements from all across the video game spectrum.  OCR showcases hundreds of re-mixers that have created thousands of remixed versions of video game music all free to download.

From there the site grew to what it is today, a place where fans, fanatics and students of video game music can go to listen, create, learn and remix video game music. You can even learn how to create remixes of your own and read the profiles of the original and remix composers.

I fell in love with this site and spent countless hours listening and downloading remixed versions of my favorite songs many that I play in my home, at the office and even in my car. OC Remix’s artists do not just take a song and make a few changes here or there. Sometimes a song is totally re-envisioned creating a completely new piece of music. These are true fans of video game music and offer it to the world free of change. In addition the remixes help preserve the essence of the original music and credit is always given to the original composer.

David “djpretzel” Lloyd is the founder of the site and after seeing many specialty music sites wanted to create a place where music from all gaming could be found so you can find music from platforms ranging from the Amiga to current systems today and everything in-between.

Music is undeniably a part of gaming culture and the remixes and mix masters from OverClock Remix have made their mark on it. If you like video game music you will love OC Remix and Obsolete Gamer recommends you check it out. They are an important part of gaming culture and gives us fans yet another outlet to enjoy our favorite past time.

Here is an arrangement of a few of my favorite OverClock Remixes.